To find flecks of gold, workers devour the rainforest floor with water cannons. "There are a lot of accidents," says one. "The sides of the hole can fall away, can crush you." (Ron Haviv / VII)

The Devastating Costs of the Amazon Gold Rush

Spurred by rising global demand for the metal, miners are destroying invaluable rainforest in Peru's Amazon basin

Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe

(Continued from page 9)

Finally he shrugs. “I’d say, after all the pay and expenses, approximately $1,050.”

“And you’ll do three of those this morning?”


“That’s an average morning?”

“Today was OK. Today was good.”

A few minutes later, he begins cooking his next batch.

Alipio mentions that recently the price of gold has fallen a bit. Because costs for mercury and fuel have increased, he says, he and his crews exist at the margin of profitability.

“What will happen,” I ask, “if the price of gold falls a lot, as it does from time to time?”

“We’ll see if that happens this time,” Alipio says.

“But if it does?”


Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus